WASHINGTON – Funding for a proposed American Indian museum center in Suitland, which was slashed last month by the House, has been largely restored by the Senate.
The Senate Thursday night let stand a committee vote to restore $19.4 million of the $22 million cut from the museum center in Suitland.
Senators did not restore $987,000 cut by the House for planning and design of the National Museum of the American Indian on the mall.
Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., said restoring the funds was the “No. 1 goal of those who were concerned with and sensitive to Indian affairs.”
Museum director Richard West called it a “major step in the right direction.”
The measure now goes to a conference committee where differences between the House and Senate will be worked out.
House Appropriations Committee staff members said it was too early to tell if the museum’s funding would face opposition in the conference committee.
But Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on the interior and related agencies, said he would oppose restoring the funds.
The $50 million Cultural Resources Center in Suitland would be the second center to be opened for the Museum of the American Indian.
A New York branch of the museum opened this fall.
The museum’s home on the mall is slated to open in 2001.
The Suitland center is needed for research and conservation and to store the 1 million items in the museum’s collection. They include wood and stone carvings from the Pacific Northwest, woven baskets from the Southwest, and textiles, gold work and jades from Central America.
The objects are now stored in the New York museum. West said if the museum’s funds are approved by Congress, ground breaking on the cultural center will proceed on schedule this October. -30-